Wilson, Merrill “Red” (2004)
With today’s induction into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame, Merrill “Red” Wilson completes a remarkable Grand Slam having been previously inducted into Halls of Fame of the Massachusetts Baseball Coaches (1975), Husson College (1997) and Cape Cod Baseball League (2001).
Though his parents were native Mainers, Red Wilson was born in Providence, Rhode Island and graduated from Hope High School in 1948 where he was an all-state hockey player.
Red considered going to Colby to continue his hockey career but opted instead for the University of Maine. While at Maine, Red was a two-time Ali Yankee Conference catcher (1951 and 1952) and served as captain in 1952 (succeeding fellow Hall of Famer Ralph Clark).
Red’s teammates with the Black Bears included pitchers Vic Woodberry) and Marty Dow as well as Al Hackett, a slugging outfielder.
Red’s baseball coaches at Maine were Mike Lude and Tubby Raymond, both of whom Red credits with having been a formative influence on his own distinguished coaching career. Another mentor was football coach Harold Westerman who brought Red into the program as student assistant charged with scouting and analyzing game film.
Following graduation, Red taught and coached baseball at Fairfield High School in Lawrence for three years. His playing days were far from over, however, and Red pastimed in the summer semi-pro circuit for Bucksport (1951), Brewer (1952), Fairfield (1953-54) and Farmington (1955). Red recalls making an All-Star team from a tryout camp sponsored by the Boston Braves in 1951. His battery mate for the All-Star game was none other than Cherryfield’s Carlton Willey who was signed by the Braves following that game and went on to a notable pig league career.
In 1955, fellow Mainer Gordon Pendleton, then coaching at Barnstable High School on Cape Cod, informed Red of an opening at nearby Dennis Yarmouth High School. Red got the job and stayed for 29 years serving as baseball and basketball coach of 20 years and later moving into administration before taking retirement in 1983.In 1981 the baseball field at Dennis-Yarmouth High School was named in Red’s honor.
Red’s playing career continued in the Cape Cod Baseball League from 1956 to 1962 League MVP in 1961).The following year, Red became manager of the Dennis-Yarmouth Red Sox entry in the Cape League and embarked on a 14-year coaching stint in one of the country’s premier collegiate leagues.
“The Cape Cod League was the Utopia of coaching,” says Red.“The kids were all motivated, they all came from good programs and they were all there to play ball.” Red coached numerous collegians who went on to sign professional contracts, including Craig Biggio and Kirk McKaskill and Maine’s own Mike Bordick, Joe Johnson and Stan Thomas.
Red took his retirement from the Massachusetts Public School System in 1983 and returned to Maine to take over the baseball program at Husson College.
Red coached at Husson for six years, rounding out an illustrious career that spanned four decades.
“I really enjoyed teaching the game of baseball”, said Red.“I was fortunate to get a terrific grounding in coaching philosophy from my mentors at Maine and I tried to focus on understanding and teaching the fundamentals of the game.’ Red today lives in Holden with Flo, his wife of 55 years. They have a son Dana, who enjoyed a superlative basketball career at Husson, and two grandchildren.
From Cape Cod Times
Merrill “Red” Wilson, longtime athletic director, coach and educator at Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School, and a member of the Cape Cod Baseball League Hall of Fame, passed away last week in Summerfield, Florida. He was 87.
Wilson was part of the fabric of Cape Cod high school sports from the mid-1950s and into the 1980s, coaching the Dolphins in basketball and baseball. He also was the school’s athletic director and a vice principal, and the baseball field at D-Y was named in his honor.
Wilson was inducted into the first class of the Cape League Hall of Fame in 2001. In a career that lasted from 1957 until 1986, he was a star player for the Yarmouth Indians, a seven-time all-star at catcher and MVP of the Lower Cape division in 1961. He later managed the Indians and their successors, the Y-D Red Sox, who continue to play on the diamond at Red Wilson Field.
Wilson was also inducted into the Massachusetts State Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame, the Husson College Sports Hall of Fame and the State of Maine Baseball Hall of Fame. He was a star player at the University of Maine, and after retiring to Bangor in 1983 he returned to coaching baseball and basketball coaching for several seasons at Husson College.
Bob Stead, who played for Wilson at D-Y, and later coached alongside him in the Cape League before becoming the league commissioner, presented his mentor at the inaugural induction ceremony.
“As a teacher and a coach, Red made everyone feel like a champion,” said Stead. “He is the personification of a Hall of Famer: class, dignity and excellence.
“Beyond our professional relationship was our personal relationship,” said Stead. “He was the most important male figure in my life. He just always did things right.”